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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Lives of Dax: Sins of the Mother (Audrid) by S.D. Perry (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode Conspiracy.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine relaunch was the first truly successful attempt to continue a Star Trek television show past its final episode. Of course, there had been novels written before taking place after the finalés of the various shows, but the Deep Space Nine relaunch was the first conscious attempt to directly build upon the events of the series and structure the novels as something of an “eighth season” to the show. If I get through the seven years of Deep Space Nine, I am seriously considering covering the novels.

What’s interesting is that the novels didn’t quite come to be in an instant and decisive sort of way. There was a hazy grey period where books were published after What You Leave Behind, but not necessarily structured as part of that “eighth season.” Two of those books, The Lives of Dax and A Stitch in Time were retroactively welcomed into the relaunch. Indeed, this short story from S.D. Perry proves to pretty essential to the relaunch as a whole.

Like Deep Space Nine itself, the novels picked up and developed on particular themes and plot threads. The entrance of Bajor into the Federation is the most obvious, a plot point set up in Emissary and never completely resolved in the show. However, one particular plot thread seems to have emerged from out of nowhere, stretching back to an aborted arc from the very season of the second generation of Star Trek television shows. The relaunch built heavily on Conspiracy.

ds9-thelivesofdax1

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Star Trek: Myriad Universes – Echoes and Refractions: Brave New World by Chris Roberson (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Quite a few of the Myriad Universe stories feel like “for want of a nail” stories. Changing one little detail of Star Trek history and the entire universe comes apart at the seams. In the Echoes and Refractions collection alone, The Chimes at Midnight offers a nightmare glimpse of a universe where Spock died in childhood, while A Gutted World explores what might have happened if the Cardassians had never left Bajor. Neither alternate universe represented a sustainable alternative to the Star Trek we know and love. The subtitles might as well have been “… and then things got worse.”

With the final story in the collection, Chris Roberson takes another tack. Brave New World isn’t a story about how removing one vital thread of the Star Trek tapestry causes the whole thing to unravel. Instead, it’s something quite a bit bolder. It’s a genuine alternate universe, one boldly different – not inherently better or worse, but just an example how things might have unfolded if just one little thing had been different.

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Star Trek – Ex Machina by Christopher L. Bennett (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

Ex Machina is really an astoundingly clever piece of work. On the surface, a lot of reads like a fan’s wishlist, a collection of “snags” made while watching the classic Star Trek films and making a conscious effort to fix them up a bit. There’s a lot of effort into explaining the changes between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, with character-centric subplots focusing on Kirk’s ego or Chekov’s growing disenfranchisement.

Indeed, Bennett even provides an entirely unnecessary but quite-enjoyable-nonetheless set of annotations for Ex Machina, explaining where and how he’s tying his story into a rake of continuity. He describes Ex Machina as probing “an unexplored gap” in the franchise’s chronology. Ex Machina exists as both a sequel to a rather bland third-season episode of the show (For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky) and The Motion Picture. Neither is especially loved among fans.

However, what’s fascinating about Ex Machina is the way that none of this prevents Bennett from crafting a compelling and intriguing narrative. It’s clear that he’s enjoying attempts to fill in various gaps, but Ex Machina works incredibly well as a piece of Star Trek which stands on its own two feet.

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Star Trek – Operation — Annihilate!

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

How do you follow The City on the Edge of Forever? The previous episode is one of the best-loved episodes of Star Trek ever produced, one of the great science-fiction television episodes of the sixties, and one of the best science-fiction romances ever written. It’s a gigantic and massively influential piece of television, one of the cornerstones of Star Trek and perhaps the best indicator of just how thoughtful and how genuine the franchise can be when it tries. So, what’s next? Where do we go from here? What is the next shot after that last scene of Kirk abandoning the Guardian of Forever on a desolate rock?

It’s always interesting to compare the first season of Star Trek to the first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The former can be counted among the very best of the show’s thirty televised seasons, while the latter can be counted among the worst. However, they do have something in common. They both probably should have ended an episode early, with The City on the Edge of Forever and Conspiracy serving as effective caps on each show’s first season, leaving the audience a chance to digest what they had seen.

Unfortunately, neither show ended on anything that could be measured among the strongest show of a given year. The Neutral Zone ended the first season of The Next Generation with a moralising whimper. While Operation — Annihilate! is quite entertaining on its own terms, it doesn’t rank among the best of the season. Still, it’s a solid pulpy science-fiction tale, which might not be the worst thing.

Man of action!

Man of action!

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Star Trek – This Side of Paradise (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

Star Trek always had a curious relationship with the hippie movement in the late sixties. On a surface level, you’d assume that the series would have a great deal of empathy for the idealistic and pacifist movement. After all, the show embraced counter-culture in a fairly significant way, offering none-too-subtle criticisms of American foreign policy in episodes like A Taste of Armageddon, and harbouring some very serious concerns about authority in adventures like Dagger of the Mind. What was The Naked Time but an embrace of fin de siècle anxiety mere months before “the summer of love”? After all, the nineteenth century European fin de siècle period had produced Der Wandervogel, considered one of the predecessors to the hippie movement.

And yet the show never seemed entirely comfortable with the youth movement. This would be much more obvious third season’s dire The Way to Eden, but the show’s sense of unease is quite palpable here, as Kirk finds himself trying to deal with a crew that have sampled some mind-altering vegetation and are now embracing free love.

Flower power...

Flower power…

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Star Trek – A Taste of Armageddon (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It’s amazing to think that A Taste of Armageddon and The Return of the Archons were produced on consecutive weeks by the same television show. Both are politically-charged pieces of pop culture, heavily influenced by the realities of the Cold War, but they adopt two completely different philosophies towards the conflict. The Return of the Archons is a story about the need for freedom and individuality, and how the struggle for those inalienable rights is a battle that must be fought. While it’s debatable whether Landru is a representation of the forces of communism, the episode is unquestionably about the triumph of Western liberal values.

In contrast, A Taste of Armageddon can’t help but feel a little cynical about the whole damn thing.

A shooting war...

A shooting war…

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Star Trek – The Return of the Archons (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It is really hard to believe that this is the first time we’ve really had one of these plots, with the Enterprise visiting an alien civilisation, meddling thoroughly and freeing the population from oppression. Of course, that’s probably because the universe seemed so vast an empty in the first few episodes. The only planets seemed to be either lifeless rocks or human colonies. From this point on, the galaxy is going to seem a whole lot busier.

Return of the Archons is a little bit like an expansion of the archetypal Star Trek plot established in What Are Little Girls Made Of? The Enterprise visits an alien world following up on the disappearance of Federation personnel. When they arrive, they discover sinister plans afoot involving evil artificial intelligences that plan on stomping out free will. Kirk promptly uses his humanity to talk the machines into destroying himself.

However, Return of the Archons deals with a whole civilisation trapped in the midst of this sinister robotic plot. Kirk and his crew aren’t strolling through an alien graveyard. This is a living, breathing society. And this is the first time that Kirk would save an entire civilisation.

Some men just want to watch the world burn...

Some men just want to watch the world burn…

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